Patriots release Keith Traylor
Team goes with youth movement on the defensive line
The New England Patriots have released another veteran defender, this time it's Keith Traylor. Traylor, like his predecessor, Ted Washington, was hired by the team to fill the need for a veteran nose tackle and key run stopper. He worked his way into the lineup by splitting time with Patriots rookie Vince Wilfork in 2004, and was a key asset in stopping the run.
His release can be contributed in part to the emergence of the rookie Wilfork, and the ongoing development of the other talented young defensive linemen such as Ty Warren, Jarvis Green and Ethan Kelly. Traylor's presence on the line has given the team time to work the young players into the rotation, resulting in improved experience and depth at the position. While they're not all nose tackles like Traylor, they all gained valuable experience on the line. It is expected that Kelly will be the one to slide into Traylor's position behind Wilfork now.
Traylor's was headed into the second season of a two-year contract that the team had to have acknowledged was an expense it could do without. While his wide body and savvy play will be missed in the middle, what Wilfork hasn't already picked up, will likely be addressed through study and rotation of the other younger contributors on the team. Traylor's Salary of $765,000, and his prorated signing bonus (50% of $475,000 in 2004) would have counted as a little over $1 Million cap number if the team kept him on the roster. By releasing him, they save his salary only, with the remaining $237,500 portion of the bonus counting against the 2005 cap.
Having younger defenders on the current roster, including two more signed for minicamp, Traylor's veteran experience, and it's associated cost, we're more than the value of his production.. That's not to say, Traylor has completed his career. It only means the end of his tenure in New England as the team heads into 2005 with their younger players.
At 35 years of age, with fourteen seasons of football experience on Sundays, Traylor could very well retire and be satisfied in his accomplishments. He has experienced some of the best of times having won two Super Bowls with the Denver Broncos and one more with the Patriots. Yet, he's indicated he wants to play one more season.
In his one season with the Patriots, Traylor accumulated 28 tackles in 16 regular season games. New England was the sixth stop for the 14-year vet so far in his NFL career. Some of the others include the Broncos (twice), Chiefs, Bears and Packers.
Where they go from here
The Patriots are not in dire need of more defensive linemen. Currently, there are eleven on the roster including the three undrafted rookie free agents signed over the weekend. Whether or not that's enough to field a strong defensive front remains to be seen, but the possibility of adding another mid-level veteran to the mix is not out of the realm of possibility
Belichick, like all defensive oriented coaches, can never have enough good defensive linemen. By releasing the 35-year old Traylor, the team could sign a younger veteran for less once the June 1st Roster cuts roll around.
If Wilfork really is "the man" in the middle, and Kelly has what it takes to be his relief, then the team would likely go with players who can play the tackle or the end position as the other members of the line. The team covets versatile players, and having to make adjustments on the fly in game situations requires players who can not only stop the run, but can adjust to the pass.
Last season, the Patriots defense was challenged to rotate players in the second half of games as opponents were typically in two-minute mode late in the game. A player, who's older, not quite in shape, or just one-dimensional, exposes the defense at a critical juncture of the game. Winded players have difficulty keeping up pressure on the offense, they can't pursue the play, and they even have difficulty getting lined up in time.
Versatile players would minimize that weakness in the defense during those critical junctures of a game. One only need to look at the Colts game against the Patriots early on in 2004 to see how Peyton Manning and the Colts' hurry up offense was able to drive down the field against the Patriots.
Should the Patriots not sign another interior lineman, it's an indication they believe their young players have enough versatility and knowledge to adapt to those crucial drives late in games. Either that, or they just weren't able to find the right guy at the right price, and were willing to go with the young guys again.
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